1. Greta Thunberg
This 16-year-old has been gaining international attention with her school strikes for the climate since 2018. Thunberg, alongside names like Xiye Bastida and Autumn Peltier, is part of a new generation of teenage climate activists taking to the streets to fight for the issue they find important.
Thunberg’s solitary protests have gone far past the borders of her native Sweden. In 2019, the Global Climate Strike that she sparked had protesters in 150 countries, with school-aged children and teenagers at the forefronts of the events.
Saskatoon has also seen a few climate strikes inspired by Thunberg. The most attended strike was held on Sept. 27, 2019 and garnered an estimated 3,000 protesters. It also outlined local climate goals and announced the institution of a youth climate council.
Thunberg has been meeting with world leaders and urging them to take action on the worsening conditions of the climate. She was named TIME Person of the Year in 2019 for her efforts.
2. Donald Trump
Never has there been a more controversial president in the history of the United States than Donald Trump. Since he was elected in 2016, Trump’s presidency has been dusted with scandals, international relations faux pas and a long string of very colourful tweets.
On Dec. 18, 2019 — just months after Trump was accused of pressuring Ukraine to find incriminating information on Democratic candidate Joe Biden — he became the third president in US history to be impeached.
Although impeachment doesn’t mean that Trump will be removed from office, the basis for a trial before Congress has been formed and will be carried through.
Only three days into 2020, Trump was in the headlines again for authorizing a drone strike that killed Iranian war major Qasem Soleimani — the first time a senior military officer has been assassinated by US forces since World War II.
There is talk of this leading to a war, especially due to the parallels drawn between Soleimani’s death and that of Franz Ferdinand, the Austrian archduke whose assassination started the series of events that led to World War I.
Canada currently has an estimated 500 troops deployed in Iraq in support of their war against Iran, but they have been suspended in light of rising tensions due to Soleimani’s death.
3. Nancy Pelosi
This politician is also the current Speaker of the US House of Representatives — the first and only woman to ever hold the title.
Pelosi has made the news for standing up to President Trump’s attempts to undermine her, famously saying to him, “Mr. President, please don’t characterize the strength I bring to this meeting.”
Pelosi’s leadership role in Trump’s impeachment will no doubt make her name one to remember, but she would rather be remembered for her own achievements, such as the Affordable Care Act.
Amid all the talks of impeachment, Pelosi is also nearing the announcement of the new North American Free Trade Agreement deal.
After two years of negotiations, an updated NAFTA agreement was signed in Nov. 2018 and renamed USMCA — United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement. It was amended again in December 2019 and currently awaits ratification.
According to the former Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, “The USMCA is good for Canada’s economy and good for Canada’s middle-class workers and families. It addresses modern-day trade issues and supports prosperity for Canadians.”
4. Hong Kong Protesters
This past year has been a big one for protesters, and this group in particular has been making huge waves.
Since March 2019, civilians have taken to the streets of Hong Kong to protest a bill that would have allowed the extradition of fugitives and criminal suspects to mainland China. The fear behind this was that the bill would be abused and used to undermine the region’s judicial independence.
The protestors have outlined five key demands — the withdrawal of the bill, an investigation into and justice for police brutality, a retraction of the characterization of the protests as riots, amnesty for arrested protesters and Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s resignation. They have also outlined the need for a universal suffrage of the city.
The first of these demands have been met but the government has refused to move forward with the other four.
Despite the protest starting out peaceful, the Hong Kong police’s use of force had pushed the protesters to fight back. An estimated 2,600 protesters have been injured and over 7,000 have been arrested in the clashes.
Hong Kong is home to the largest Canadian diaspora in any city outside of Canada, with over 300,000 Canadians recorded to be in residence.
5. Masai Ujiri
As president of the Toronto Raptors, Ujiri is responsible for making the tough but intelligent decisions that were needed to take the Raptors from being the laughing stock of the NBA to winning their first championship in 24 years.
Ujiri is also known for his activism in Africa. In 2003, he founded the non-profit organization Giants of Africa, an initiative intending to use basketball to change the lives of African youth by providing quality gear, amenities and coaches.
Despite his attempts to stay out of the limelight, Ujiri has become one of Canada’s most beloved and respected celebrities, and he was even named Toronto’s most influential person in 2019.
Tomilola Ojo/ Culture Editor
Photo: Jody Thomas, Gage Skidmore/ flickr